“It’s good to get Leroy back,” coach Pete Carroll said after the 97-minute practice. “He went through a long process. He visited with the commissioner. We’re comfortable with what we know right now. There’s still stuff coming.”
Including a court date later this month that prompted the club to tell Hill to stay away from team activities while he dealt with the issue – which also led to Hill’s recent meeting with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Hill’s legal issues and status with the league remain unresolved, Carroll said, but getting him back on the practice field was a needed step.
“At this point, we’re comfortable with getting him back here and getting him to work and start him learning what we’re all about football-wise,” Carroll said.
For a first step, it was a good one – for Hill, and his teammates.
“I’m super happy,” Hill said. “I missed my teammates. I missed playing football the whole time. I’m happy to be back.”
Offered fellow linebacker Lofa Tatupu, “Good to see him. Good to have him back. He’s got to knock some rust off, but he looked good today.”
Despite Hill’s return and Tatupu being given the day off, the No. 1 linebacking crew included David Hawthorne at middle linebacker for Tatupu, Will Herring at the weak-side spot that Hawthorne has been filling in Hill’s absence and Aaron Curry on the strong side.
Hill worked in the No. 2 unit with middle linebacker Matt McCoy and Anthony Heygood.
Carroll stopped short of saying he expected to have Hill for all 16 games this season.
“We’ll have to wait and see on that,” he said. “I don’t know that. I don’t know how that’s going to go.”
But the club does know enough that it felt this was the time to bring Hill back.
“The (league) hasn’t come to any final conclusion yet, either,” Carroll said. “But they did give us enough information that we know how to progress from here. Leroy wants to be part of this thing and he’s ready to get going. In the meantime, we’re going to bring him back as fast as we can and then we’ll just take it one day at a time when it gets to some further rulings.”
WELCOME BACK, PART 2
In addition to Hill, wide receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh (sports hernia) and Deion Branch (knee) got in some limited work for the first time since having surgeries in April.
“This was an exciting day for us, to see T.J. get back on the field and Deion get back on the field and catch some balls,” Carroll said. “It’s been a long time since they’ve been out. With the rehab there’s the concern: Are they going to make it?
“Today, at the end of practice, it was great to see these guys get out and – with really good tempo – run some routes. Which means that they’re really on the mend and I wouldn’t be surprised if they can do some work next week.”
That would be in the team’s final minicamp, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. If not then, “Certainly, they’ll be ready to go for camp,” Carroll said. That would be training camp, which starts in late July.
“It was a great sign today,” Carroll said. “That was a nice boost to see that happen here this late in the OTAs.”
In the prolonged absences of Houshmandzadeh and Branch, who ranked 1-4 on the team last year with 79 and 45 receptions, the coaches have been able to get extended looks at the wide receivers who will complement them this season.
That group includes Golden Tate, this year’s second round draft choice; Deon Butler, a third-round pick last year; Ben Obomanu, a seventh-round pick in 2006; Mike Williams, a former first-round draft choice by the Detroit Lions who was signed after getting a tryout at the first minicamp; Reggie Williams, another former first-rounder; Sean Morey, a former Pro Bowl special teams player who was added in free agency; and Isaiah Stanback, the former quarterback from the University of Washington who was claimed off waivers two weeks ago.
JUST FOR KICKS
Veteran kicker Olindo Mare was not in attendance today, but that didn’t stop the team from trying a few field goals – with punter Jon Ryan doing double duty.
Ryan converted three of his four attempts – hitting from 20 and 28 (twice) yards and missing wide left on a 20-yarder.
With Ryan doing the kicking, wide receiver Ruvell Martin replaced him as the holder.
Here are the highlights from a high-action practice at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Tuesday:
* Matt Hasselbeck was on fire today, completing loads of passes and earning the praises of his coaches following the workout. At one point during 7-on-7 drills, the veteran quarterback recorded three straight jaw-dropping completions downfield, with the final one to tight end John Carlson his most impressive. With a heavy blitz coming and a defensive end dropping to cover Carlson, Hasselbeck deftly lofted a pass 20 yards downfield where only his tight end could catch it.
* Later in the practice, Hasselbeck threw an absolutely perfect deep pass to wideout Golden Tate, who snagged it in stride about 40 yards downfield. Then a few snaps later, Hasselbeck, ever the savvy player, waited for the defensive end to charge upfield before firing a sidearm pass through the line to wideout Ben Obomanu, who was slanting across the middle.
* Linebacker Will Herring and Anthony Heygood and defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson posted notable pass deflections during team drills.
* Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and wideout Kole Heckendorf connected on a pair of deep balls — one in 7-on-7 period and one in full-team drills.